First Do No Harm – How to Choose a Vet

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm” - Hippocratic Corpus

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Clients frequently ask me for advice with regard to their dog’s health, and I will answer them honestly (the biggest of which is that yes, your dog is overweight.  Now do something about it.) However, I have a very limited knowledge base of most things having to do with a dog’s physical health.  It’s not my area, and there are plenty of well-qualified individuals who can answer questions beyond “How do I clip my dog’s nails?”.  That’s where your vet comes in.

Choosing a Vet

Choosing a doctor or vet can be a very difficult thing.  It’s almost as dramatic an undertaking as choosing a pediatrician.  You are placing the health and welfare of your dog/child in the hands of someone else, essentially asking them to Pilot your dog’s/child’s health.  It can be scary handing over control.  So take your time when choosing your dog’s doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before your get the perfect doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before you get the perfect doctor.

Use your resources and referrals.  Do you like your dog’s groomer?  Ask who they recommend for a vet.  Did you adopt your dog?  Ask the shelter who they like to use. Don’t forget to ask your friends, or even post on Facebook to get some recommendations.  You may notice a trend of vets whose names frequently pop up, either good or bad.  Choose wisely.

Just kidding...you can change

Just kidding…you can always change vets if you need to

So you’ve got a recommendation, and you’ve made your first appointment.  Think of it as a first date.

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Things to look for:

  • Clean offices.  No, I don’t expect the floors to be spic and span, but if there is anything other than dog/cat hair on the floor (is that dried blood?!) step away from the reception desk.  Keep stepping.  Right out the door.
  • Friendly staff.  If reception makes you feel like a jerk for just checking in for your appointment, then how do you think you’re going to feel when you call them later asking a “dumb” question about your dog’s symptoms?  Yes, they may be very, very busy, and you may have to wait to have your question answered, but you should never be made to feel stupid for caring about your dog’s health.  Expect respect, for both you and your dog.
The staff here is a joke

The staff here is a joke

  • Easy set-up.  For those of you with dog-reactive dogs, you know what I mean.  It can be difficult working with your dog’s reactivity while out on a walk and another dog is across the street.  It can be very difficult in a crowded waiting room.  If the waiting room is over-crowded, approach the staff and ask if there is another option (waiting outside, or even better, a small room where you can wait).
  • Good communication.  Ask your vet a question, you should get an answer.  Note I did not state you should get the answer you are looking for. However, you should not feel shamed or stupid for asking questions.  You and your vet are a team both working together to keep your pet happy and healthy.  So if you don’t understand a procedure, or a medication, or symptoms, ask your vet.  They should give you an answer in terms you can understand.
  • Good “dog-side” manner.  Yes, your dog is scared, and perhaps you are, too.  Your dog might not like the vet at first.  Allow for some time to get a good relationship between your dog and your vet.  Watch your vet: do they seem comfortable working with your dog?  Do they take safety precautions when necessary (such as a muzzle or another person to assist)?  Those are good signs.
  • And sometimes “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.    If your vet knows everything, know that they don’t.  It’s okay for them to say they aren’t sure, or don’t feel qualified to make a diagnosis.  Remember, first do no harm!  Knowing your limits (even as a vet) is a good thing.

And makes for wonderful BBC mock-umentaries.

Finally, be aware that any vet can be subjected to biased reviews, undeserved slander, and malicious attacks.   The very nature of their practice unfortunately includes taking animals to the Rainbow Bridge.  Understand the difference between a poor practice and poor circumstances.

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Damnit Jim, he’s a doctor, not a time traveller!

Choosing a vet is a very personal thing. You are asking someone else to care for the health and well-being of a very important part of your life:  your pets.  It’s okay to take a pass on a vet just because you got a “strange vibe”.  Listen to your gut, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have questions, and trust your instincts.  Your pet will thank you with a long, happy, healthy life.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Standardized Test

Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

  – Dr Ian Malcom; Jurassic Park

Breathe much?

Breathe much?

Three and a half years ago, something amazing happened at the Crufts dog show:  the Best of Breed winning Pekingese and Bulldog and were both sent home the first day, eliminating them from competition.  They were found by vets on site to be so grossly distorted through selective breeding that it was determined they were not able to have lives as normal, healthy dogs.

Many dog lovers pumped their fists in the air in triumph.  As a society, we’ve finally started to accept perfection is a stupid endeavour, and that beauty comes in many forms. Women no longer cram themselves into corsets.  Models have freckles, and can have three square meals a day!  How wonderful!

Dogs, on the other hand, are still being genetically manipulated in a macabre Dr. Moreau fashion.   Not being able to breathe takes second place to an adorable smooshed-in face.  Back problems aren’t a breeders problem, so breed ‘em long and low.  It’s sick and grotesque. And the AKC is celebrating these deformities!

I’ve long maintained that the AKC is a culprit in over-population (AKC doesn’t follow up to make sure that the dogs you’ve registered aren’t participating in a puppy mill.  Just pay the fee, and you’re good to go with your registered purebred!).  The AKC is also aiding and abetting in what can only be described as Frankenstein-eque practices.  Giving awards to those who can most grotesquely twist a dog’s features like origami.

For example, the bulldog. As a breed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog more impishly lovable.  A sweet, stubborn disposition.  All trapped in a body that can’t procreate without medical intervention.  That alone should tell you something is wrong.  The fact that an animal who has been so twisted by breeders that they can’t even give birth safely, but can still win an award for the best conformation, tells you everything that is sick and twisted in dog shows.

The Science of Dogs blog recently did an article giving examples of how various dogs have changed in 100 years of selective breeding.  Over the course of one hundred years, dogs who were athletic, healthy breeds have become sick, gasping ghosts of themselves.  Compared side-to-side, one couldn’t be blamed for mistakenly thinking these dogs had been exposed to a high level of radiation and mutated.

Obviously not all breeders are to blame.  Some breeders take a look at a specific breed and say to themselves, “I love that dog!  But I bet I can make it healthier, better, happier!”.  To those breeders, thank you!  You are maintaining the standard of lovely dogs I hope we never lose!  To the other, more selfish, revolting “breeders”:  learn to love dogs.

Take a look below and you’ll see some pretty drastic differences in dogs in just 100 years.

selective-dog-breeding-7 selective-dog-breeding-6 selective-dog-breeding-1 selective-dog-breeding-2 selective-dog-breeding-3 selective-dog-breeding-4 selective-dog-breeding-5

Time to put an end to these disgusting practices.  Time for the AKC to stand up for true breed standards.

 

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio